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Legal Briefs: Lawsuits Filed by Fendi, Polo Ralph Lauren and MB Sportswear

Counterfeiting remains critical issue in recent court filings.

NEW YORK — Fendi filed a trio of trademark cases in January. Fendi S.R.L., Fendi Adele S.R.L., both subsidiaries of LVMH Moet Hennessey, and Fendi North America Inc. filed a trademark counterfeiting and false designation of origin lawsuit against Filene’s Basement Inc. and Retail Ventures Inc. in Manhattan federal court. The lawsuit alleged that Filene’s sold handbags, shoulder bags, purses, wallets, and key chains that either imitate Fendi designs or bear confusing trademarks.

“Filene’s Basement has a strong, written corporate commitment that we only sell legitimate branded goods. We have removed the small number of items Fendi has questioned from our stores. Our supplier has assured us that these goods are legitimate, but we are working with Fendi to resolve the matter,” said Mark Shulman, president of Filene’s Basement, in a statement. The lawsuit asked the court to enjoin Filene’s from selling any item with a Fendi trademark on it and to order the retailer to produce a list of the names and addresses of anyone who purchased the allegedly counterfeit items between January 1, 2000 and the date the court’s orders were carried out.

Similar lawsuits were filed by Fendi against Big M Inc., which does business as the retailer Annie Sez, and Ashley Reed Trading Inc. “Annie Sez stands 100 percent behind its products. We believe all our products to be genuine and have been given no reason to believe otherwise. We do not believe there is merit to the lawsuit and we will vigorously defend against this claim,” said Rona Korman, general counsel, Big M.

A permanent injunction and judgment on consent were reached in a lawsuit filed by Polo Ralph Lauren against Ashley Reed Trading Inc. According to the court documents, Ashley Reed agreed not to sell counterfeit Polo Ralph Lauren goods. The initial complaint against Ashley Reed was filed as part of a case against a number of defendants who operated in locations on or near Broadway from 34th Street to 42nd Street in Manhattan for allegedly selling counterfeit Polo apparel. The goods in both the Fendi lawsuit and the Polo Ralph Lauren lawsuit were legitimate grey market apparel items, said Jerry Dunne, attorney for Ashley Reed. The merchandise is “absolutely, unquestionably legal, the goods are not counterfeit,” he said.

MB Sportswear Inc., Universe Sportswear Inc., Seaburg Inc., Blast Sport LLC and Blue City Inc. filed a lawsuit against VF Outdoor Inc., manufacturer of North Face merchandise, for allegedly breaching the terms of an agreement and for restraint of competition and trade. VF Outdoor is the outdoor division of VF Corporation. The initial complaint was filed December 27, 2005 in New York Supreme Court; VF Outdoor submitted a notice to remove the case to Manhattan district court January 13. VF Corporation declined to comment on the lawsuit, citing company policy regarding pending litigation. The lawsuit included allegations that VF Outdoor deliberately sought to restrain competition in the outerwear urban apparel sector by not selling to retailers that carried directly competing products from other companies. The complaint asked the court for a temporary restraining order, preliminary injunction, permanent injunction, and damages of $26 million plus legal fees and the cost of litigation.